My Year of Opera: August

Okay, this is my last “digest version” of this blog. I promise. Each opera will be getting full treatment for the rest of the year. Unless it doesn’t. Who can say? Anyhow, this finishes off all the operas I watched for August!

Die Zauberflöte

I’ve seen it before, the old DG video lurks in my bunker on 2 VHS tapes. This was Kenneth Branagh’s film of the opera and I thought it was delightful. Staged in WWI with the British army it made sense that the opera was sung in English to go with the setting. And Mozart works well in English, I think. The voice types are light enough for the text to be understandable. The plot is still an incomprehensible mess at times but I really dug this. Branagh also used the film setting well; this isn’t just a staged production. Available on Netflix!

Perfect Lives

Listened to it many times but this is the first time I saw the whole thing. There are some scenes available on YouTube, sure, but the DVD is really cool. It doesn’t work well in one sitting. I found it better when I watched one or two scenes at a time. Each scene is about the length of a sitcom and the space between viewings lets you digest the dense information that he packs in each story. Also, the connections between scenes was stronger to me after that digestion time. My brain got overloaded if I watched too much. I bet Robert Ashley is a big fan of Arrested Development.

Alice in Wonderland

Unsuk Chin’s opera was, to sound unkind, the exact opposite of everything I’d ever want from an Alice in Wonderland opera. It isn’t that I didn’t enjoy it, I just have a totally different read of this story than she did. This was more of a surreal oratorio which highlighted the Greek tragedy and German Expressionism you didn’t really associate with Alice in Wonderland. Ever. The music was great, I’d listen to it again, but outside of a few visual stars (the caterpillar, for one) this was not much of an opera.

Luci mie traditrici

Salvatore Sciarrino’s opera wins the “sounds awesome” award. Crazy colorful, flutes and glassy strings, countertenor, all that stuff. The man writes some really fantastic sounds and, much to my surprise, the vocal lines struck me as very singable. Sung in Italian without subtitles, I had only about 3 sentences on Wikipedia to tell me the plot. Essentially, it is the story of Gesualdo without the main character being named Gesualdo (supposedly Schnittke was working on a Gesualdo opera at the same time). Very stylish staging with minimal but focused light. The staging matched the music, I only wish I had subtitles so I could understand the libretto.

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